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Correspondence -  1978 - 1993
Steve Harrison, an employee of the Park System, first contacted Dr. Arthur Francis Pillsbury on January 3, 1979 with  two page letter written from 1817 "H" Street in Merced, California asking for information on Arthur C. Pillsbury, saying he was researching him so articles and books could be written. 

Dad mentioned this and we knew Harrison was being provided with valuable photos, d'orotones, and information to assist his work.  Over the previous several years Dad had grown concerned over the few mentions of his father's legacy and the failure to understand the focus of his work, which was awakening people to the living reality of all life around them using technology. Grandfather was determined to stop the destruction of the natural world by created the means for people everywhere to  connect emotionally with all forms of life. 

Harrison persisted throughout the entire correspondence, 1978 - 1990,  in characterizing Dad's relationship with his father as uncle and nephew. Arthur C. Pillsbury legally adopted all three children on November 14, 1911, making Father his son, for all legal and social purposes.  ADOPTION PAPERS

I encountered this strange attitude when talking to employees of the NPS and to those in the Yosemite Association. 

I made an appointment with Museum Curator in Yosemite in the mid 1990s, asking to see items they were storing there.  One of these was an album showing the ongoing progress as the Glacier Point Hotel was built, beginning in 1916.  I knew from accounts in the local paper these has been taken by Grandfather.   The Curator pointed out there was no writing on the photos.  I flipped it over showing the back which read, "Produced by the Pillsbury Picture Company."     

Others told me this was policy so deeply etched they feared to say anything.  Why?  Pillsbury's studio in Yosemite was six times as large and productive as all the other studios put together.  Pillsbury carried out a one man campaign to make Yosemite profitable, something badly needed by the National Park Service at the time.  Why had Grandfather been erased from Yosemite?  

While I was interviewing my father in October of 1990  I asked him who he viewed as his father.  He answered with an unequivocal affirmation that AC was his father.  He could barely remember Dr. Ernest.  It should have been enough that a legal adoption took place.  These ongoing attempts to recharacterize the relationship and minimize the role Dad, as the appointed keeper of his father's legacy, raise serious questions.  

During the time Dr. Pillsbury was corresponding with Steve Harrison those of us who were close to him noticed a change in his normally cheerful and positive attitude toward life.  He became distracted and began researching his father's  history.  This began around 1979 when his brother-in-law gave him a book by Shirley Sargent titled, "Yosemite and It's Innkeepers - the story of a great park and its chief concessionaires."  While continuing this research I found, to my surprise, every single employee of the NPS persisted in their insistence Grandfather was my great-uncle.  This did not end until I provided them with the adoption papers; then, they stopped responding to my questions.  

AFP = Dr. Arthur Francis Pillsbury, my Dad.  GSPY = Grace Sylvia Pillsbury Young, Dad's sister, two years older than himself.  I am MPF = Melinda Pillsbury-Foster 


February 1      GSPY to Harrison 
    This is Aunt Grace's response to the inquiry from Harrison.  Grace supplies information on going to school in Yosemite in 1912.  

February 3      Harrison to AFP – 2 pages   
    Harrison explains his interest in AC Pillsbury is not as a photographer but as an historian.  Harrison tells Dad has been researching AC.  He provides his job history, which includes having worked in Yosemite for three years and four summers, and as a seasonal employee for the NPS.    Harrison's Background

February 9      AFP to Harrison    
    Dr. Arthur F. Pillsbury thanks Harrison for focusing him on the need to, "preserve his recollections of "Uncle" a truly remarkable man."   AC adopted the three children legally on November 14, 1911.  The adoption made him legally AC's son and heir for all legal purposes.  What any of the children called him was irrelevant.  Michael Adams never called his father, Dad, Father, or any other commonly used paternal word.  He always called him Ansel.  This did not change their legal relationship.  
         Dr. Pillsbury goes on to comment about the fire of 1927 and his later trips to the Park with family, "On one of those trips I was told by an employee of Best's Studio that he believed there was a strong effort to play down Uncle's role in the development of Yosemite."

February 13    Harrison to AFP
   Harrison asks Dr. Pillsbury if his father had an emotional reaction to the burning of the studio.  He then asks, "Everyone I have corresponded with who remembers your Uncle in Yosemite speaks very warmly and highly of him." Harrison says, re: question "Did he (meaning AC) or anyone else ever suggest it might have been deliberately set."    Harrison then mentions contacting the a paper about AC's work at the Missouri Botanical Gardens and sends the only record they have of the name.  It is a clipping from one of Dr. Pillsbury's interviews on pollution.  

February 14     AFP to Harrison 
​       Dr. Pillsbury informed Harrison of the adoption, making AC his father, not legally his uncle.  The rest of the pages, eight of them, are now up but the top of some has been cut off for some reason.  They also needed to be remastered to be readable.    Pages 2 - 5    Pages  6 - 9

February 16    AFP to Harrison – 2 pages 
       To Harrison's direct question regarding possible arson as the cause of the studio fire of 1927 Dr. Pillsbury responds, "There was never a suggestion by anyone that the fire that burned Uncle's studio was deliberately set.  Certainly Uncle never expressed it, nor did his manager, Everett (Tommy) Tompkins."  
          I had not yet received the file containing this letter when Dad died.  These files were set out for me with the boxes of other materials and I did not go through them until several years later later, around 1995.  This is a statement being made in 1978.  Between 1978 and 1990 many things became clear to Dad.  These changes in what he knew, and believed, accumulated.  About the question of the fire I remained oblivious until one day a few months before Dad died.      
       Dad was unfailingly honest; until the day he died his mind remained sharp.  No one suggested to him the fire was set.  But Tommy did relate to him some facts which he immediately took to Virginia and Ansel. Dad was in Yosemite to sign papers for his father, finalizing his exit from the Valley.  Dad confronted the newly weds over what Tommy told him but accepted Virginia's solemn word Ansel had no motive to burn the studio as he was determined to become a concert pianist.           
            This assurance from the lips of a childhood friend, he accepted.  He also promised to say nothing of the facts relayed by Tommy without first talking to Virginia.  The confrontation took place at the living quarters for the Best Studio in early 1928.  Dad did not lie in the statement above, but he delicately obfuscated the issue.    

March 15          Harrison to AFP 
     Harrison writes Dr. Pillsbury telling him he inquired with the patent office and acquired a copy of patent for the mass production photo postcard machine.  

March 15          GSPY to Harrison – 2 pages 
​       Aunt Grace writes to Harrison, mentioning her memory of a trip into the Valley by car.  This would have been either 1914, the first car in after the snows melted, or the first car in, 1916 when Desmond offered a prize for being first.  I suspect it was 1916 because they came in on the railroad line, apparently.  There are records of Pillsbury doing this.  Grace continued,  "My brother Art sent me a copy of his letter.  We don't always agree but I guess it isn't too important.  He left out the interesting part of the trip up the Y. V. Railroad to be the first car into the Valley.  That car had a regular siren on it which gave him quite a bit of pleasure when we were driving on country roads into the Valley."  Chief Townsley is also mentioned and Grace comments about her Father, "Uncle never outgrew a lot of his boyish fun.  He was very good natured and I never heard him lose his temper."

April 8               GSPY to Harrison 
​        Winkey in a straw hat, 4th of July, and Indian Field Days.

April 24             Harrison to GSPY
        The letters from Harrison up to this point have been chatty and friendly.  Harrison mentions research and AC's first marriage to Ella Wing, and the Tioga Pass Trip AC made in 1916 with Hil Oehlmann and other guests.  

June 14              Harrison to AFP
​        Harrison sends Dr. Pillsbury the same information he sent Aunt Grace and details about his own plans.  

June 19              AFP to Harrison 
​        Harrison receives some connections to the Ella Wing Pillsbury story which include Great-Aunt Belinda. Belinda was the youngest sister of Sylvia Florance Ball Pillsbury, Dad's mother.  

October 5          Harrison to AFP
​        Harrison asks to meet with Dr. Pillsbury.  Outlining his research over the summer he explains he wants to conclude his research and begin writing.  He explains he is donating a kidney to his brother and will be out of commission for a while.  

October 10        AFP to Harrison 
​         Dr. Pillsbury sends directions to his home.  

October 11        Rell G. Francis to Ansel Adams  
 ​       Rell Francis writes to Ansel Adams to ask about the value of photographs he has acquired by Arthur C. Pillsbury.  Francis  noticed a box containing photos and films had been left behind by the representatives from BYU. 
Mr. Oliver had purchased these from AEtheline Pillsbury as soon as her husband died for $100.        
​      This is part of the collection Dr. Pillsbury was to use to to ensure his father's legacy was remembered.  

October 15        Post Card  - Harrison to AFP 
           Harrison writes to tell Dr. Pillsbury his visit will probably be in January.                                      
October 23        Ansel Adams to Mr. Rell G. Francis 
​          Adams writes, "Thank you very much  for your interesting letter of October 19th.  I knew Mr. Pillsbury very well indeed when he had his studio and shop in Yosemite where he had developed his lapse-time photography of flowers." 


January 9          Harrison to Rell G. Francis
           Harrison writes Rell Francis to ask about the collection.  He says he heard about the collection from a Joan Ciesla in Spanish Fork, Utah, but comments he is in touch with Virginia Adams. Wants to know about the films Francis has. 

January 22        Harrison to AFP 
                               Includes a short ACP Bio  
             Harrison does not mention that the Pillsbury Collection has finally been located.  

January 22        Harrison to Rell G. Francis 
          Harrison, who does not have a full time job, tells Francis he wants to buy the Pillsbury materials in his possession.  Evidently Francis has turned over the films to BYU. Harrison adds that Pillsbury's affiliation with universities in California is slight.  Harrison lies about the existing family and heirs, saying Pillsbury and his wife had no children but failing to mention his living son and daughter who have been writing to him to share their memories of the man who legally adopted them.  He also fails to mention Pillsbury's son is a graduate of Stanford, where he received his PhD. and that the family has multiple affiliations with universities.   
           These comments on Harrison's part appear to be made in response to questions from Francis received in the letter he sent to Harrison to which we have no access.  

January 26        AFP to Harrison   
​             No mention of the collection.  Plans are being made for a visit to Dr. and Mrs. Pillsbury. Dr. Pillsbury's mention of a visit with his father make it clear the family is close and not as Harrison has attempted to portray.  

February 8        Harrison to AFP
            Harrison's excitement about his 'research' comes through - but he is lying by omission to someone who had been generous and trusted him.  

February 11      AFP to Harrison 
​                Dr. Pillsbury writes to confirm the day for Harrison's visit.

February 15       Harrison to Rell G. Francis 
​                Harrison's eagerness to acquire the collection seeps through the page. He has generously visited Aunt Grace, who gave him a multitude of photos in hopes a book would be written.  Soon, he will be visiting Dr. Pillsbury, if the plan holds.    

February 16   - Dennis Rowley, Curator, to Harrison 
                                    Brigham Young University 
                                            Harold E. Lee Library, Archives & Manuscripts
                Harrison receives a response from BYU about the collection he hoped to buy.  It is not ready for viewing.  

February 28      Muriel M. Oliver to Betty and Normal Suth – 3 pages   
​               Mrs. Oliver explains how Rell Francis lifted part of the collection and what her intentions were for its preservation.  Because of Steve Harrison our family had no voice in the matter.                  

March 6              Mr. Rell G. Francis to WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
                 Rell Francis finally yields, having no proof he purchased any part of the collection.  

March 13            Harrison to Mr. Rell G. Francis 
            Harrison is 'disappointed' not to have acquired the collection from the thief. But he and his wife are taking a vacation then he will be back to his part-time job.  

March 15            Rell G. Francis to Harrison 
​              An unfortunate things has happened to Rell Francis. Mrs. William Oliver has demanded the photos and other material filched by Francis be handed over to BYU.  It is an unpleasant situation for  Rell, who is working on adding to his understanding of Pillsbury,  and for Harrison who now will have to deal with BYU and hope Dr. Pillsbury never finds out.    

March 19            Harrison to AFP  
​ Harrison writes to thank Mr. and Mrs. Pillsbury for their hospitality and for the gift of the d'orotones which now line his walls. He has finished the manuscript for an article on Pillsbury to be published in The Alaska Journal.

March 19            Harrison to Mr. Rell G. Francis    
          Harrison is still interested in buying the collection from anyone who has it.  Again, where will this part-time employee get the money?  Or, who does he know who has this kind of money?  Now, Harrison is about to write Dr. Pillsbury.  Is he going to mention the matter so the Pillsbury family can buy the collection - or persuade Mrs. Oliver to place it at Stanford, UCLA or Berkeley, their family schools?  

April 4                 Rell G. Francis to Dennis Rowley 
           Rell Francis's 'acquisition' of the box left behind  from the Pillsbury Collection and subsequent letter to Ansel Adams, set in motion an on-going chain of events.  As a result of his interaction with Harrison facts were revealed to the Pillsbury Family  which otherwise would have remained hidden.  Harrison knew Pillsbury had adopted the children and that they were his legal heirs. Because of Harrison's lies these facts remained unknown to BYU.  Rowley told me this when we talked. I appreciate his having provided me with his correspondence with Harrison. He was surprised to learn Pillsbury had a family who are perfectly competent to handle placement of documents, photographs, and other kinds of collections.  Dad's professional papers are at UC Riverside.  

April 10               Dennis Rowley, Curator, to Harrison 
​            After the Collection is in the hands of BYU they kindly let Harrison know they will contact him when it is ready for viewing. Harrison has still not mentioned it has been found to Father.   

April 16               Harrison to Mr. Rell G. Francis  
​           Harrison is disappointed not to have gotten his hands on the collection.  

May 6                  Harrison to AFP
​          The existence of the collection is still not mentioned.  

July 4                  AFP to Harrison 
          Dr. Pillsbury writes to tell Harrison Aunt Grace has died.  He regrets she will no longer be a source of information and expresses his own grief.  Dr. Pillsbury ends the letter with, "I always wish I could do more to help you in your efforts."  
              It would have meant so much to Father to know the collection had been found.  

July 10                Harrison to AFP


June 2                  Rell G. Francis to WHOM IT MAY CONCERN 
                                   Dated June 3, 1980  
​         Rell turns over what he still has of the Pillsbury Collection.  

UNDATED –       Handwritten note from Rell G. Francis on stationary
                        of William Harold Oliver, Jr., 6363 Estates Dr., Oakland,
                        California“Specialist in Photomicrography”


January 22     Harrison to AFP
          Smarmy and insincere should be Harrison's middle names.  

January 26     Harrison to Rell G. Francis
     Harrison wants to know how much Rell would have charged for the collection - and sends him the entire product of his research, "His Camera was his Gold Mine," which shows just how little he understood AC.     

January 27     AFP to Harrison    
​          Dr. Pillsbury is still trying to get Harrison to produce something substantial about Grandfather.    

February 4      Dennis Rowley, Curator, to Harrison
                                Brigham Young University 
                                         Harold E. Lee Library, Archives & Manuscripts   


December 29   AFP to Harrison 
              Dr. Pillsbury's trip to Yosemite opened him up to the reality his father faced in the wake of the fire.  He itemizes these, finally realizing what his father had lost, and recognized his struggle to hold on to what he had created, and now lost.   Dad does not mention the suicide of George Banfield, who burdened with his share of the debts from the fire, killed himself in September of 1929.  


January 10       Harrison to AFP, handwritten 
             Harrison is still interested - if there is money in it.  

January 21       AFP to Harrison 
             Dad was growing much quieter during these years.  We began to talk about Grandfather and recall the stories he had told me growing up.     

March 31          Post Card - Harrison to AFP
​            Harrison is thankful for Father's renewed interest?  

September 29  Post Card - Harrison to AFP
​          Harrison receives another d'orotone and reads what Father wrote.  


September 1     Harrison to AFP 
                            Envelope to AFP from 
                                     'The Harrisons” "Please return" in handwriting    
​             Harrison continues to string Father along.  


November 27    Harrison to AFP    
​          Harrison finally mentions the BYU Collection.  Mother had died the year before of lung cancer.  Dad is struggling with his health. But for Harrison there is the scent of money in the air.   


January 21        Harrison to AFP – 2 pages 
​           Harrison sends Dad a proposal for a book.  It would never have been finished in time for him to see.  

February 23     Harrison to MPF - Postcard 
             When Harrison sent this I had not started digging.  But I knew how much Dad had given him over the years.  When he told me I had to pay him for his research, I declined.  Doing it myself was the right thing to do.  Otherwise the most significant facts could have been missed.  

​November 29, 2016 - Update

             This is the background for the story which is now being written as a book and screenplay.  Stay tuned for developments. 
             Father, Dr. Arthur Francis Pillsbury, asked me to see justice was done.  I will deliver.  

Correspondence with the following individuals in separate exchanges  taking place simultaneously.  
To create a clear narrative these are filed together chronologically and separately by individual.
Arthur F. Pillsbury - Grace Sylvia Pillsbury Young 
 Rell G. Francis - Dennis Rowley - Muriel M. Oliver - Betty and Normal Suth - Ansel Adams
Chronological Index of Compiled Correspondence 

        AC Pillsbury                Steve Harrison            AF Pillsbury           Ansel E. Adams          Rell Francis          M. Pillsbury-Foster